raison d’être – Anima Caelum 2xCD Old Europa Cafe 2019
By way of background context, Anima Caelum was first issued in a limited edition of 99 copies on double cassette in 2018 (also on Old Europa Café). Now it has been reissued with slightly revised content on double CD in a less limited edition.
With the tagline on the cover stating ‘alive 2014-2017’ it is a not too subtle clue enough that it is a collection of live tracks and not new recordings. So for me, the pinnacle aspect is the full recording of the special set which was performed at the Cold Meat Industry 30th anniversary show in Stockholm November, 2017, which I was lucky enough to attend and witness in person. My review of that festival noted the following with regard to the raison d’être set featured on this set:
‘Having seen raison d’être three times before, I expected it to be decent show, but was completely blown away by the impact of this set, based on the sheer intensity of volume. Also with sole member Peter Andersson playing a special set consisting of one track from all of his CMI albums, it was a veritable hit parade of the tracks from each album with the greatest emotional impacts. Again, with the focus being on the projected visual backdrop, it functioned to further amplify the mood of the sacral and the damned, based around various moving images of religious decay and sorrowful mourning. For me personally raison d’être’s set was the most moving of the entire festival, where the pairing of tracks Inner Depths Of Sadness (from the Within The Depths Of Silence And Phormations album), and Reflecting In Shadows (from the In Sadness, Silence And Solitude album) hit home hard to show just how important the music of raison d’être has been to me over the years (as an example of this, I was so taken by In Sadness, Silence And Solitude when first hearing it in 1997 that it spurred me on to immediately write my first music review, which in turn led to me creating Spectrum Magazine shortly after). In being far beyond a ‘mere’ dark ambient set, the volume absolutely elevated the impact and presence of the set to the next level and was one of my personal standouts of the entire festival’.
The above impression pretty much sums up my thoughts on the entirety of the content featured across the two CD’s. Perhaps this is a release more the avid and obsessive fan than the casual listener, but even so, it is an excellent collection of the full and complete Stockholm set coupled with live tracks from various performances. Likewise the live version deviate enough from the original to provide both detailed and nuanced interest. Another very enjoyable album from this unfaltering dark ambient behemoth, and exquisitely presented in a deluxe 6 panel digipack.
Mz.412 – Svartmyrkr LP Cold Spring 2019
Over their now 31 year career Mz.412 have never been the most prolific group, but equally have made their core releases iron clad statement of intent. Likewise, rather that sticking to a single sonic approach over the decades, they have managed to cover quite some stylistic territory under the broader ‘black industrial’ banner. That has variously included: rudimentary ‘factory floor’ framed industrial (Macht Duch Stimmme and Malfeitor); satanic inspired black industrial (In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi); black metal infused black industrial (Burning The Temple Of God); militant industrial/ power electronics influenced black industrial (Nordic Battle Signs); neo-classical tinged black ambient (Dominie Rex Infernum); and bombastic neo-classical framed black industrial (Infernal Affairs).
When excluding their live albums, Svartmyrkr is the eighth formal album from the group and a long twelve years on from Infernal Affairs. With myself holding a personal mindset
that there may have not been another Mz.412 album, I was OK with that prospect, given the strength and importance of the back catalogue. But in 2019 we have been graced with a new album Svartmyrkr, which thankfully both meets and exceeds hype and expectation. Ten tracks constitute the 45-minute album, where the pounding drums, male choirs of the short Antra Helstraffet functions as the album’s short intro. This is followed by the brooding to bombastic neo-classical track Öppna Helgrind driven forwards by mid-paced militant percussion and strong gruff vocals of Nordvargr. With its
distorted industrial furnace blasts Codex Mendacium mines the earlier black industrial sound of years past, while Ulvens Broder sees the group at their most bombastic with a rousing militantly tinged neo-classical track. Ulvens Bleka Syster is of note by featuring crawling and seething orchestral strings of a clear Penderecki strain. The albums also contains some surprises, such as the moody black ambient track Burn Your Temples, True Change with its central acoustic guitar courtesy of Kristoffer Oustad. Likewise, the late album pairing of She Who Offers Sorrow and We Are Infernal, qualify as effective
album ‘hits’, with both being militant and bombastic neoclassical driven black industrial tracks of the highest order.
With Svartmyrkr released in early 2019 and appreciated over a number of months, it is clear that it is an effective culmination of everything which has come before. Not being a
mere pastiche of earlier elements, rather it has drawn together core sonics elements into a complete and unified whole, where Svartmyrkr both compliments and builds upon the significant legacy of Mz.412. Wholeheartedly recommended.
Monocube – Substratum CD Malignant Records/Cyclic Law 2019
Like a monumental ancient breath issuing forth from the bowels of the earth, Monocube have returned with their fourth album of archaic soundscape ambience, issued again on Malignant Records but this time having been co-released by Cyclic Law. As an initial observation, on a whole Substratum has a more consistent sound palette overall than last album The Ritual (2016), which was more varied between tracks and on occasion used prominent musical motifs and ritual percussion. And while musical and melodic motifs are still employed here, it is in a much more subtle way, often semi-obscured within the elongated widescreen droning ambience.
Depth, breadth, and reverb play a huge part in setting the tone and atmosphere of the album, where early in the album foggy and enveloping twilight drones and deep throat chants characterize the lengthy Prima Materia. This piece seamlessly blends into Luft which is differentiated by its subtle and minimal plucked instrument (guitar?) and use of what may be field recordings of blustering storm winds, which perfectly offsets the elongated melodious drones. The semblance of natural field recording elements also weaves through the middle and later sections, providing the consistency in mood across the album. As with the last album, a number of tracks are based on collaborations, here featuring Visions on one composition, and Antti Litmanen of Arktau Eos on another, but without reading the liner notes to determine which tracks these are, their contributions are not immediately evident from sound alone – and again refers back to my comments on the consistent sound palette.
With the tone and atmosphere of Substratum fitting like a glove with similar archaic ambient droning material issued on both Cyclic Law and Malignant, this is another fine album to submerge one’s inner psyche with and effectively lose yourself over its hour-plus timespan.
Die Sonne Satans – Metaphora LP AnnapurnA 2018
The Italian Dark Ambient project Die Sonne Satans is a name I have always been familiar with, but only ever heard their track on the Slaughter Productions Death Odours compilation of 1994, which was was a moody dark ambient piece, with a minimalist cinematic horror music flair. Although the project issued three formal releases from 1993 to 1995 (including two tapes on Slaughter Productions), they effectively passed me by.
In its original form, Metaphora was the first release from the project, and was issued in 1993 via Old Europa Cafe as a split tape with Runes Order, which I have obviously not heard until now. With mention of the minimalist cinematic horror slant above, this is in fact substantially elevated here, and particularly based on the slow tolling church bells, distant orchestral melodies, owl calls and crepuscular voices open the album on The Garden of Hydra. Other tracks feature muted melodious loops, sweeping tones and ritual percussive textures, and create a tensile atmosphere as a result (refer Body Snatcher, Spiritwood). Source stands apart with its darkly whimsical synthetic orchestral strings, blended with aquatic tones textures for sublime result. Side B brings continues the obscure and moody atmospherics, with Orbis mining tensile catacomb ambience, while The Venerable returns to sacral ambient spheres through the use of slow tolling church bells, loops and treated choir vocal textures, orchestral tinged synth lines and solo piano line. Advent constitutes a more driving and dominant sub-orchestral composition structured with a variety of fragmentary loops, while the final track Pleurotomaria (originally taken from a 1992 tape compilation) returns to a floating darkly cinematic terrain, with floating disembodied vocalisations.
With a dour mood and obscure melancholy which is characteristic of early 1990’s industrial / dark ambient scene, the music lives and breathes with subtle vibrancy, whereas modern computer versions of the same type of material usually come across sound flat and lifeless. Although clearly of the era in which it was created and recorded this is not some mere nostalgia trip, given Metaphora can stand above much of what is released in dark ambient spheres today. This is a fantastic release, and huge credit needs to be extended to AnnapurnA for reissuing this underground obscurity.
Feberdröm – Blind Eden MC Emesis 2018
Feberdröm – Offerlammet MC Emesis 2018
The Swedish project Feberdröm (translating to ‘fever-dream’) have been lurking around in the post-industrial underground since 2011 and amassed fifteen releases in that time (mostly issued on cassette). Emesis is then noted to be run by the same person behind Feberdröm, with these two tapes being the first items issued on the label. On the musical front Feberdröm are slightly difficult to classify, given they draw from a wide cross-section of underground sounds, including: industrial noise, abstracted rhythmic/ ritual movements, caustic heavy electronics, experimental guitar drone and other more ethereal atmospheres. But perhaps a descriptor of ‘abrasive ambient’ is a suitable catch all.
Blind Eden is then characteristic of this wide stylistic palette, where the track Blind Eden Falls is a particularly good example of moody droning atmospheres, abrasive textures and agonized ranted vocals. Likewise, the stilled rhythmic elements as featured on Death Of A Snake warrants a fleeting comparison to another Swedish project Stratvm Terror. Incinerators opens side B and mines a heavy electronics tone, as does the grindingly morose Concrete Apocalypse, while The Deed is Done rounds out the tape with sub-orchestral synth pads and a generally ethereal mood. On a whole Offerlammet is slightly less varied than Blind Eden, although there are abstract noise-scapes sitting adjacent to other tracks of programmed drums and atonal guitar drone. In fact Offerlammet is characterized by its greater reliance on guitar which is wielded in an experimental fashion than anything resembling standard playing, therefore resembles a doom-drones style at times – albeit without obvious riffs.
Given both tapes feature eight tracks each and both span 40 minutes, as a general comment I would say there are some excellent tracks which sit alongside more standard or typical ones. Thus perhaps then with a more focused and discerning track selection, it would take the material in a step up towards greatness. But even with that said, there is a lot to enjoy here and certainly nothing that it poor or woeful. Also for my own personal preferences, I find tracks which use abstracted guitars to be less engaging overall, which makes Blind Eden my pick of these two tapes. In noting the above, I imagine Feberdröm are a project to keep a watchful eye on.
Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies 4xMC Cloister Recordings 2018
Micahel Idehall is a name I have been familiar with for a number of years, but for whatever reason never got around to checking any of his material until now. But in then being introduced to his music via this release, I have been advised that this is VERY different to his usual output, which I understand may be more rhythmic based and song focused. As for Four Prophecies, it very much an exercise in endurance as the four tapes contain a long-form 45-minute composition on each side, thereby totally a whopping six hours of music. As an overarching descriptor, this can be bracketed under minimalist and industrial tinged dark ambience, where the eight tracks are massively sprawling as may be expected from the format.
Given the sheer elongated run-time, there is a certain process of shifting your mindset when approach this, and very much seeking to slow the chatter and internal dialogue of your mind so as to better succumb to the slow evolutionary flow on display. Each piece effectively inhabits is own sound palette and minimalist stylistic slant and slowly unfurls over its duration. Sonically the industrial-ambient soundscapes are darkly hued, structured around layering of muted atonal drones and grey echoed sound washes, and while being predominantly instrumental, whispered vocals, and distant chants do make sporadic appearances. Select tracks have a more pronounced rhythmic undercurrents, including low bass throbs, stilted ritualized percussion and other mechanical textures (clicking sounds, distant machine idling etc). There is also a notable darker abstracted ritual atmosphere throughout a number of compositions, which for the sake of comparison reminds of the late era minimalism of Archon Satani.
Given the long-form run time it is perhaps an overly obvious statement that it encompasses a meditative quality. But given the catatonic evolution of each piece, once your mind is drawn in it quickly generates an impression that there is no beginning and no end – but only the ever present now – where the mind slowly floats along in the ever-flowing sonic stream. Packaging wise does the set suitable justice with four pro-printed tapes and j-cards housed in an oversized pro-printed cardboard slider box. Clearly not a release for those with a short attention span, but a rewarding one for those with patience and willingness on focus on the minuscule sonic details and gradual tonal shifts.